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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Agency CFOs feel strain of impending budget cuts

Federal chief financial officers and deputy CFOs are feeling more pressure to help their agencies deal with impending budget cuts.

With the White House planning to release the fiscal 2013 budget request Feb. 13, agency CFOs and deputy CFOs said in an exclusive online survey by Federal News Radio that their top three priorities and challenges all revolve around improving how their agency manages spending. Agencies expect the 2013 request to include significant cuts in across-the-board discretionary spending.

CFOs and deputy CFOs said helping their agencies deal with budget cuts is their top priority for 2012 with an average ranking of 1.9 out of eight choices. Respondents ranked second "helping my agency use financial data to make better decisions." Reducing improper payments, solving data quality and integrity issues, and modernizing or improving their agency's general ledger financial systems rounded out their top five priorities.

CFOs and deputy CFOs also worried that their workforces are not ready to help them use data to make better decisions or to figure out how best to save money. In two related questions, a majority of respondents said their workforces needed help.

And finally, when asked to rate priorities on a scale of 1-to-5, with five being very important, workforce training received the highest average rank of 2.7, while reducing improper payments (2.8) and cutting costs (2.82) rounded out the top three.

At the same time, however, CFOs and deputy CFOs said the biggest challenge facing the financial-management community was budget reductions and too many unfunded mandates, while workforce issues ranked much lower.

While workforce training is a major concern, only 9 percent of respondents said they were likely to move their financial-management system to a shared-service provider in 2012. Just under half of the respondents, 45 percent, said they do not plan on using the Treasury Department's electronic payment processing system in 2012 either.

CFOs and deputy CFOs gave good marks to Treasury's 12-step plan to improve financial management, with 46 percent saying it's making a difference. But 37 percent said it's moving too slowly — so there seems to be agreement and also desire for improving the federal financial management process.

In fact, 55 percent said the 1990 CFO Act needs to be updated, while 18 percent said there are some parts that need to be revised.

Finally, CFOs were unsure how the Government Accountability and Transparency (GAT) Board would affect the government. Of the respondents, 18 percent said it will improve oversight and help gain control of spending, 36 percent said it will be another bureaucratic oversight body and 46 percent said it was too early to tell if it will help or hurt.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio

DoD's audit goals achievable, Congressional inquiry finds

A new report by a special panel of the House Armed Services Committee finds the Defense Department has come up with a solid plan for meeting its deadlines to become auditable, though meeting the goals will take sustained commitment by the military services and continued leadership from the secretary of defense.

It's becoming a familiar storyline: the findings are strikingly similar to earlier opinions offered by the Government Accountability Office, and to the Pentagon comptroller's own assessment of DoD's path toward auditability.

Panetta got the ball rolling on DoD's accelerated audit deadline. He administratively imposed the interim 2014 date for an auditable statement of budgetary resources last year, which has since been written into law. He also ordered up a new audit strategy for meeting that deadline, which he signed off on in December.

DoD's Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller Robert Hale, who is in charge of the Pentagon's path toward auditability, said he found the panel's report to be balanced and constructive. He also echoed the importance of leadership commitment to audits.

But Hale said one of his biggest challenges is making sure DoD's managers and workforce embrace the idea that audits are their responsibility too. DoD has just started developing auditability related evaluation criteria for members of its Senior Executive Service. Conaway said Congress needs to make sure those evaluations are taken seriously.

The department also is trying to make sure its SESers and rank-and-file workforce know what they need to know about audit readiness. Congress gave DoD some new authorities in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to create a course-based certification program for its financial management workforce, something Hale thinks would help a lot.

-Jared Serbu, FederalNewsRadio.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

AGA recommends new COO, PIO job descriptions

A new push to improve performance also could change how the government chooses chief operating officers, with an eye toward candidates who find true interest in data-driven reviews of federal programs.

The recommendation, by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), would bake performance improvement into the chief operating officer's job description and require the Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), which is instrumental in hiring political appointees, to determine how willing and able candidates are to actively pursue data-driven performance improvement programs. Without that, AGA said, sustaining the programs becomes more difficult.

The AGA study also recommended evaluating where performance improvement officers fall on agencies' organization charts and converting every PIO position into a full time role.

Despite finding a number of shortcomings, the AGA found that the data-driven performance review process is working.

The analysis comes in the form of data-driven, or at least data-informed, reviews of programs, according to AGA.

-Ruben Gomez, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, January 13, 2012

Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board Issues 3 Year Plan

This report is intended to better inform and engage FASAB stakeholders. The board’s stakeholders include those who use, prepare and audit financial reports. Users of federal financial information include citizens, citizen intermediaries, elected and appointed officials, and financial and program managers. We hope publishing this three-year plan allows our stakeholders to:
  • Participate fully in the standards-setting process
  • Plan for changes in generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
Download the Report Here...